||Injecting the practice of slavery with the colors of life is one way of
looking at the art of John W. Jones. Jones has taken vignettes of slavery, found
on paper money issued by the Confederate States of America and many Southern
states, and translated them into color-filled images on canvas. Jones is an
artist and illustrator in Columbia, S.C. An exhibit of 30 of his paintings
dealing with slavery as a part of the African-American experience are on display
at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in
Charleston, S.C., through Oct. 19.
Jones said the reaction since the exhibit opened Feb. 15 has been more than
he imagined it would ever be. He's gotten calls from the New York Times, Home
Box Office network and People magazine about his work.
His acrylic paintings
have generated a deep response among the viewers, which surprises him, he said.
"I never dreamed that it would have this type of reaction," Jones
said. He added, "It's important to understand why the Confederacy put
cotton and slavery on their notes."
Jones was born in South Carolina in 1950 and lived through many of the events
he paints but he never encountered this aspect of American life until about four
Jones was working for a blueprint shop in Charleston when a collector
asked to have a Confederate bank note enlarged on one of the firm's copiers.
Once the note was enlarged, Jones said he was fascinated to see the scene before
him - a black field hand picking cotton.
That stirred his creative side and he began to do more research into an area
he never knew existed.
Jones said he looked on the Internet for more information
about Confederate notes and saw the Louisiana State University's online exhibit,
"Beyond Face Value: Depictions of Slavery in Confederate Currency,"
featuring currency depicting the lives of slaves and ex-slaves before, during
and after the Civil War. The online exhibit is found at: http://www.cwc.lsu.edu/cwc/BeyondFaceValue/beyondfacevalue.htm
||Jones started looking for the notes in flea markets and anywhere else he
could find them. He said he thought paintings based on the notes would be a good
addition to his ongoing series on the African-American experience from the slave
trades through the Civil War and onward to the present day.
He said he can remember drawing when he was 6 years old and becoming more
involved with his art while in high school, where his talent was called on to
design bulletin boards and paint the backdrops for school theatrical
After high school, he spent 8 years in the U.S. Army including service in
Vietnam and Korea.
|| For five of those years he served as an illustrator for Army
training materials. In 1976, as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration, Jones
was selected to paint a wall of the American compound in Seoul, South Korea,
measuring 25 feet tall and 150 feet long and giving visitors a black-and-white
walk through American history.
"I almost didn't finish in time for the Bicentennial - it was a big
wall," Jones said, wondering aloud if the artwork is still to be found
Following his Army service Jones worked for a graphics firm in Washington,
D.C., for about a year and then started working as a freelance
artist/illustrator for clients such as IBM, Westinghouse, NASA, Time-Life Books
and the U.S. Postal Service.
||After several years, he moved back to South Carolina. About five years ago,
he started painting full time and selling his art to the public through several
galleries. He said he "paints ... things from my past, old hometown scenes,
churches, Buffalo Soldiers and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment." The
Buffalo Soldiers were black troops stationed in the West after the Civil War
during the Indian Wars period, while the 54th Massachusetts was one of the first
black regiments to experience battle during the Civil War.
regiment was the subject of the movie "Glory" and is depicted in a
famous sculpture by coin designer Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
||Jones said when he approached Dr. W. Marvin Delaney, director of the Avery
Center, about an exhibit of paintings about slavery on paper money, he said his
main challenge was "how was I going to make picking cotton exciting."
However, the topic has excited visitors to the exhibit, which shows some a side
of history they'd never seen before.
Jones uses the words "astonished" and "amazed" to
describe the comments made by viewers.
The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture is located
at 125 Bull St., College of Charleston, Charleston, S.C. The gallery is open
between noon and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Group tours must be scheduled
by calling (843) 953-7609.
There is no admission charge to view the exhibit.
Coin World Magazine. For more information about Jones' paintings, prints and
note cards, contact Gallery Chuma, 43 John St., Charleston, SC 29403 or call the
gallery toll free at (888) 249-5286.
John W. Jones--born
May 11, 1950 in Columbia, S.C. Jones--has been a freelance artist and
illustrator for more than 20 years. His former clients include Time Life
Books, IBM, Westinghouse, Rubbermaid, NASA, Gadded Space and Flight
Center, and the U.S. Postal Service. Jones explores life through art. This multi-talented artist uses
oils, acrylics and watercolors for his painting. Striving for detail in
light and reflection, he meticulously draws each painting first, then
layers it with color, resulting in very realistic interpretations of
everyday life and landscapes, as well as historical insights into our
Jones, who graduated from high school in 1968 and self-taught, has
been drawing since early childhood. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1970,
Jones served in the Vietnam War, where he also took illustration classes
in military School.
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
update 7 July 2008